5 Ways to Ruin Christmas for Your Family

Cute Christmas OrnamentWant to ruin Christmas for your family? Here’s my top five ways to ensure your family has a really good time this holiday season.

Re-Gift. Just don’t do it. Especially if you have a small family or social circle. If you do, there’s a good possibility the gift will recycle and everyone will find out how cheap you really are. The best thing you can do with a gift you don’t like is donate the gift to charity. Keep in mind, however, that if the gift is poor quality, or is ugly or old, that’s not an excuse to give it to the needy.

Buy everyone the same gift from the dollar store. It’s a super big no-no even if the gifts are different colors or designs. Cheap-o gifts that are basically the same thing, given to everyone on your gift list, isn’t the true spirit of giving. All that shows is either a) how much you don’t care or b) how little you are involved in people’s lives. If you aren’t sure what to buy your friends and family, give them cash or a Visa gift card. If money is an issue, make something. Preparing a loved one’s favorite dessert or treat shows that you care. And if you don’t cook, share a family heirloom.

Stress out and act like a freak. If you know the holidays stress you out and your family tells you, every Christmas, that the Grinch has nothing on you, then maybe you should step back as the Christmas party host. Can’t do that because you’re a control freak? Well, maybe you should, for the sake of your family, refrain from all holiday events. No one wants to be the reason why Christmas was ruined. Give your family a break, okay?

Share old candy. This doesn’t go for just Christmas, because it can be applied to Valentine’s, Easter, and Halloween, too. Don’t give out candy you’ve had for five years. That’s not saving money and it’s plain, old GROSS. Nothing is yuckier than biting into stale, oxidized candy. Red Christmas Ornament

Make Christmas be about you. Guess what? Christmas isn’t about you! It never has been, nor will it ever be. It’s about the birth of Jesus (at least for practicing Christians). And while I know that you may be thinking, “Hey I’m still walking this Earth and according to my awesome self, I’m the bees’ knees. So take THAT Christmas,” let me remind you this attitude will get you nowhere in life. Your family came together on this holiday to be in the company of their loved ones and have a good time.

Manage Your Online Reputation: My Company Got A Bad Review

Manage your online reputation: Reading bad online reviews.
Reading bad online reviews is shocking.

Your company’s rockin’ along and enjoying success. Sales are up. The feedback has been great. Your customers seem to be loving everything that you do. And then it happens: Your company gets a bad review. How do you manage your online reputation?

First and foremost: Don’t panic. It’s a review, not a death sentence.

How you respond to the review makes or breaks the moment.

There are three ways you can respond to a bad online review:

  1. Ignore it and move on.
  2. Have a knee-jerk response and scream that the bad review needs to be taken down. NOW!
  3. Plan a strong defense and work it, baby.

We advise clients to set up a campaign that will negate poor reviews.

It’s easy to do, but it takes manpower and time. That’s why reputation management firms are literally cleaning up these days. It’s popular to have a company take care of those pesky, bad reviews. When you hire professionals to do this job, you’re sending out a special army to ferret and weed out the negativity.

Most companies don’t have time to chase down all that’s said, the damage that’s been done, and fix it properly.

When you set up a campaign to avenge your company and rid it of poor reviews, look at the strategies you’ll implement.

Where did the bad review come from? Twitter? Facebook? Your blog? An online review site? Somewhere else?

How will you respond to the bad review? Will you write a response? Ignore the bad review? Have your happy customers write positive reviews?

How will you keep your finger on the pulse of future reviews? Your company should be aware of everything that’s said about your brand as it happens.

Manage your online reputation: Upset about online reviews.
It’s easy to be upset about online reviews.

Your strategy will be based around where the reviews are coming from, and why they are happening. For example, if you’re producing a product that sucks, you’ll want to fix that immediately. Maybe these negative reviews are a sign that you’re not the bees knees after all.

If you’ve got a hot-headed customer who’s fond of complaining, it’s time to listen to what she’s saying, even if you think she’s wrong. And it may be time to give her something. Sometimes the squeaky wheel needs a bit of grease. Many customers who openly complain can be satisfied. All they want is to be heard.

When the entire crowd, or a significant percentage, is writing bad reviews, it’s time to look at your business model. One or two complaints is a given in any industry. More than that, and on a regular basis? Time for you to head back to the drawing board to determine what you’re doing wrong.

We help businesses overcome poor reviews by attacking the problem. Rallying your customer base with surveys is a great way to start. Implementing a strong plan to respond directly to angry and dissatisfied customers is a given. Changing what’s wrong is imperative.

One more thing about less-than-stellar reviews. Your customers are your company’s most precious resource. Remember that. It’s not your product, it’s who buys it.

Repeat that one more time. It’s a big one.

Your customers are your company’s most precious resource.

If your customers aren’t digging what you’re doing, it’s a wake up call. Instead of seeing the feedback as negative and something to erase (and forget once it’s gone), listen to what’s said. Your brand is not so special that it’s been singled out. Every brand on the planet’s received feedback that asked for change.

Maybe that dirty shop you work in needs to be cleaned up. Why would you assume your customers enjoy standing around in filth? Get a duster, mop, and cleaning supplies. Throw in a few rags get busy. It’s not your customers fault that you kept a nasty environment. Change it!

Perhaps your product does suck. If it doesn’t work, breaks, or isn’t what the customer ordered, fix it. Do it with a smile and a sincere apology. Thank your customer for giving you valuable feedback. Start delivering a product that works.

Feedback is good. No one wants to hear scathing, profane responses, and I’ll be the first to say that’s a bit over the top. But if someone is telling you that your business needs to be fine-tuned, bless your lucky stars that someone had the balls to tell you how your brand appears to the world.

‘Nuff said. Happy holidays!

 

Does your brand need a quick fix? While we can’t promise an overnight change (beware those that do), we guarantee we’ll clean up a bad rep. Hire us!

 

Images courtesy of HubSpot.

A Family Favorite: Lou Percy’s Shrimp Dip Recipe

 

Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe with ChipsI am proud to share this family favorite with you. My family’s eaten Lou Percy’s shrimp dip recipe since I was at least a teenager, and maybe before that. It’s one of my mom’s recipes.

Who is Lou Percy? That’s the mystery! Did she (or he) give my mom this recipe? Or did my mom find this delish combination of shrimp, spice, and cream cheese in a cookbook? I’ve searched high and low, but have no answer. And you know what? I dig mysteries. Sometimes it’s better that way.

Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe Ingredients
Some of the ingredients that make Lou Percy’s Shrimp Dip recipe flavorful.

My mom began making this recipe for holiday festivities throughout the year. When she’d have parties, Lou Percy’s shrimp dip was one of the guests of honor. My first husband and I, along with one of my favorite cousins and her husband, used to clean up as soon as my mom put this dip on the table.

I didn’t make this dip for years. It was a part of my distant past and something I didn’t think about until Christmas rolled around. My mom continued to make the dip for her annual New Year’s Eve party, however. I’d know the holiday season was coming and ask my mom to be sure and make some to share with me, too. My kiddos never took to the dip, and that was fine, because it meant I could have Lou Percy’s infamous shrimp dip all to myself.

Boiled Shrimp for Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe
Boiled, fresh shrimp.

My mom’s growing older and I’m transcribing all of her recipes as quickly as I can. A few years ago, Afriel and I sat Mom down and made her share the best of her recipes. I say we made Mom sit down – if you don’t know my mom, then you aren’t aware of this 80-something ball of fire. In spite of a serious back condition and two rounds of cancer including two rounds of radiation and one surgery, my mother remains a force to be reckoned with. Getting her to sit still for more than five minutes is next to impossible. The lady is always busy!

Lou Percy’s shrimp dip is a great addition to any party. The recipe can be used throughout the year, too. I love the dip at Christmas time, because it’s my favorite time of year. Having a shrimpy-cheesy-spicy treat while you’re partying with friends under the Christmas tree is something you shouldn’t miss.

Shrimp and Green Onions for Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe
Chopped shrimp and green onions.
Preparing the Veggies and Fruit for Lou Percy's Shrimp Dip Recipe
Preparing the veggies and fruit.

Everyone – and I mean everyone – loves this dip.

I’ve had another version, and that person used more ketchup than my mom does. My mother said that dip was frightful, but I disagree. It wasn’t a knock-off that could hold a candle to my mom’s shrimp dip, but a bit more ketchup adds a rich, red tone to the dip. And a bit of tomato taste isn’t so bad. What I’m conveying here is you can definitely spice this recipe up your way.

As with all of my recipes, feel free to improvise. I always do.

What’s not negotiable: Don’t use canned shrimp. For heaven’s sake, that stuff is nasty. The shrimp should be fresh, fresh, fresh. It’s the base of this recipe. I use green onions and probably more spice than others may like. That’s how my mom always made it, but you can cut back.

It doesn’t take long to make this recipe, either. Like the majority of what I make in the kitchen, this recipe is easy, quick, and delightfully tasty. Serve with tortilla chips, Ritz crackers, or Keebler butter crackers. We’ve used each of these and the results are spectacular.

Lou Percy, whoever you are, thanks for a mighty yummy dip!

 

Lou Percy’s Shrimp Dip

Ingredients

1 lb. peeled, deveined, boiled shrimp

1 large package cream cheese, softened

6 to 8 green onions

1 dozen stuffed olives

1 cup mayonnaise

Fresh lemon juice

6 T ketchup

12 shakes hot pepper sauce

6 T Worcestershire

Garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper

Chop up the shrimp, onions, and olives. Mix the cream cheese with mayo. Add the remaining liquid ingredients and blend. Slowly add the shrimp, green onions, and olives. Add garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper to taste.

 

Texas Cookbooks for Your Kitchen

I love to cook. I think just about every Texan does. Cooking is something we’re proud of in the Lone Star State, and an art we take seriously. I’ve compiled a nice list of Texas cookbooks for you. Each of these books are Amazon best-sellers and rank at the top of the list. How can you go wrong with that? I know that as a busy as the holiday season gets, I need all the help in the kitchen that I can muster.

Texas cookbooks are an easy way to get the food cooking and on the table, whether you replicate the recipes or use them for inspiration. Most of my recipes are tweaked and re-birthed into customized dishes that I like. But it all starts with the basic recipe, and I typically get that from a well-loved cookbook.

Want to know how else you can use these groovy cookbooks? Give them as presents and gifts. Share the love with family and friends. Especially if you’ve got a loved one who’s moved out of state and is craving some down-home, Texas eats. We’re all about soul food in Texas: BBQ, salsa, Tex-Mex, chili…makes me hungry thinking about our special cuisine!

Heck yeah, ya’ll! Texans are the best about knowing how to follow our hearts and put a whole lotta love into our food.

Free Download: Seth Godin’s The Bootstrapper’s Bible

Seth Godin 2009
By Joi Ito (Seth Godin) via Wikimedia Commons

This cool book is a must-read if you are serious about being an entrepreneur. Seth Godin’s The Bootstrapper’s Bible is a manifesto based on his book by the same name.

It’s funny how timely this little book is. Godin packed quite a bit of wisdom and practical advice in a mere 103 pages. I like that Godin doesn’t help you find the ultimate business to run (how could anyone do that?), but he does tell you what not to do.

I think we’re all looking for a magic bullet when we read other entrepreneur’s books. If you’re looking for advice and a well-worn path, you’ll appreciate this free download. If you’re looking for someone to hold your hand, then you’ll be highly disappointed. Thing is, you gotta have balls to be successful. It takes a whole lot of courage and a big heart to start a business and to keep it going. Self-employment is not for the weak.

Being an entrepreneur is highly personal. Being an entrepreneur is about risk. It’s also about making quick decisions and knowing what the market wants. I think I’ve been living on another planet for the past ten years because last night was the first time I’d seen “The Bootstrapper’s Bible”. I’m thrilled that it remains a free download, too. I haven’t always liked what Godin wrote (Poke the Box) and I find his blog…a bit unusual. But “The Bootstrapper’s Bible” hits some points on the head that every entrepreneur should know.

I’ve included a few of Godin’s books below that you might find interesting.

Enjoy, ya’ll. Hope you’re doing well after Thanksgiving!

 

Black Friday Online Shopping Deals – Are You Ready To Save Money?

Black Friday Sales
Image courtesy of lamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s time to take advantage of Black Friday online shopping! Are you ready to save money?

We love a good sale. We appreciate Black Friday shopping that allows us to save money. We know you like saving money, too, so we’ve compiled some kick ass sales links just for you.

These links have been specifically curated for you, the online shopper. We’re recommending the best merchants and products.

Check out our list of Black Friday iPhone apps, too. They are free, fun, and incredibly handy when you’re organizing your shopping lists.

We dig Black Friday online shopping…it rocks! Let us hear about the deals you get. Saving money is easy when you’re smart shopper.

Have fun!

 

 

ModCloth

 

 

Layla Grayce

 

 

Tea Collection

 

 

Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Big Grey Horse Media

Happy Thanksgiving from Suki!
Happy Thanksgiving from Suki!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can’t believe that we’re already in last two weeks of November. Christmas arrives in four weeks! This year has been a great one for Big Grey Horse Media, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

In 2010, when this was a fledgling blog, I wrote a little post about gratitude. I also asked readers what they were grateful for. Today, I’m feeling even more grateful for my business and how far we’ve come since Thanksgiving 2010.

Do you take time to reflect on all the wonderful things in your life? I do – every day! Thanksgiving is a touchstone, for me, to dig even deeper and quietly ponder about all the things that have been given to me. All the things that cross my path and further my goals. All the wonderful people I’ve met, and the terrific, supportive family that I have.

What do you think about on Thanksgiving? This holiday can be stressful, and I know many of you are busy cooking and spending time with the people you love the most. Remember to be good to yourself and not worry about things being perfect during the holidays. What your family and friends really want is time with you.

Afriel recently wrote a humorous post about families and Thanksgiving. Be sure to read it for a chuckle or two.

And if you’re struggling with recipes, I’ve made it incredibly easy with my Thanksgiving recipes.

Happy Thanksgiving from Champagne!
Happy Thanksgiving from Champagne!

And if you’re wanting someone sweet tonight, dig this cup of hot cocoa!

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY – Black Friday shopping. Check out my list of iPhone apps to make online and in-store shopping e-a-s-y.

Ya’ll have a wonderful day. We are tucked in and spending quality family time at Big Grey Horse Media. We wish you many blessings as 2013 closes and 2014 begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Free Must-Have Black Friday Shopping Apps

Black Friday Specials Sale
Image courtesy of lamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We know you love shopping as much as we do. True to the holiday shopping spirit, we’ve made a list of four free Black Friday shopping apps. That’s right – free apps to use on your iPhone. You’re probably familiar with a few of these online shopping sites. Not only are they huge brands, but several have been around for more than a decade.

iPhone apps make your life easy. I love using iPhone apps to simplify and organize my life. Being an entrepreneur, mother, and equestrian keeps me busy. I need all the organizational help that I can get.

Another thing that I love? Free!

Black Friday can be a hot mess if you’re not prepared. My suggestion? Always organize before you begin shopping.

iPhone apps help you get on track. Download the app and begin searching for deals. Choose the deals you like and organize from there.

Whether you prefer shopping online (I do) or are brave enough to open your wallet in the stores, Black Friday is one of the best shopping days of the year. Get organized and prepare for the BIG day!

Get busy and have fun shopping!

 

Slickdeals

 

Brad’s Deals

 

Sazze, Inc.

 

FatWallet, Inc.

 

 

Classic Hot Chocolate Recipe With a Smooth and Minty Twist

Classic Hot Chocolate
Classic hot chocolate with a twist of cream and mint.

Homemade hot chocolate is always divine, but it’s truly special when shared with the people you love. This classic hot chocolate recipe is super easy to prepare and serve. On a frosty Texas day (or night), nothing else warms you up better.

My mom likes a bit of spice, so she adds a sprinkle of cinnamon and a bit of chili powder. That’s not my preference, but I’m always happy to accommodate her.

My coconut chip nut bars are a tasty way to enjoy this hot chocolate, too. Perfect for hungry Texans, and so nice for the holidays. The hot chocolate and coconut chip nut bars recipes are easy ways to teach your kids how to cook.

Another secret I’ll share with you is this: Pair your hot chocolate with a square (or two) of a fine chocolate bar. And no, that’s not chocolate overload. It’s called a tasty and fabulous indulgence!

This lovely little recipe serves six people.

 

Classic Hot Chocolate

  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • whipped cream
  • crushed candy cane
  • candy cane

Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and water in a medium saucepan until thoroughly mixed. Heat on medium high, while continually whisking, until the mixture starts to boil. Continue whisking for three minutes. Turn off the heat and slowly add the milk, and keep whisking. Add the vanilla. Once milk is heated, but not boiled, pour the chocolate into a mug.

For the perfect peppermint hot chocolate (as shown in the photo), add a candy cane to the side of the mug, top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with the crushed candy cane.

 

Simple to Make and Easy to Bake Coconut Chip Nut Bars Recipe

Coconut Chip Nut Bars Recipe
Coconut Chip Nut Bars – so yum!

This coconut chip nut bars recipe was obtained by my mother in her mid-20s. The recipe is perfect for those of us who run very busy schedules. Coconut chip nut bars are also easy for people who are inexperienced in the kitchen. If you’re new to cooking or have been afraid to make a dessert from scratch, try this recipe. You’ll love the yummy results!

Because this treat is so simple to make, I recommend having your children help out. The layers don’t take long to out together and the kids will enjoy being your helpers. Sprinkling the chocolate chips and coconut is something even a young child can do.

This can be a fun recipe for the holidays, too. The bars, when served, are gorgeous. Pair the coconut chip nut bars with a hot cup of cocoa and you’ve got it all going on! What a great way to relax and enjoy a nippy Texas evening.

Making Coconut Chip Nut Bars
Pouring sweetened condensed milk into a pan of chocolate chips.

 

Coconut Chip Nut Bars

Makes 3 dozen bars

Crust:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter

Preheat the oven to 350oF.

In a medium bowl combine flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs firmly into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool.

Topping:

  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup flaked coconut
  • ½ cup crushed Heath Bars

While the crust is baking, combine the milk and one cup of the chocolate chips in a saucepan. Stir over medium low heat until the chips are melted. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the chocolate sauce over the baked crust. Sprinkle the nuts and remaining cup of chocolate chips over the sauce. Top with the coconut and candy bits. Gently press the topping down into the chocolate mixture.

Bake at for 18-20 minutes or until firm. Cool on a wire rack and cut into bars. Chill until served.